How to File Federal Taxes When Living Together & Not Married

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One of the first choices taxpayers must make when filing an income tax return is which filing status best fits their situation. Unmarried persons usually have the choice between filing Head of Household, Single, or Widow (er) and married persons choose between married filing separately and married filing jointly. Deciding on a filing status usually depends on your age, income and role in the household.

File as head of household if you have dependents and provide more than half of the support for your household. For the purposes of taxation, the person who provides more than half of the support for the household is the individual who paid more than half the expenses in the household. Examples of expenses include medical bills, life insurance, food, clothing and education expenses. The head of household deduction amount for the 2009 tax year was $8,350. This deduction amount is higher than that of the single and married filing separately (both $5,700).

File single if the person you are living with qualifies to file as head of household. You are considered single if you are unmarried, divorced or if you have a marriage that was annulled.

Use IRS form 1040-EZ if you are filing single and have no dependents. If you have dependents or are filing head of household, use form 1040-A or 1040 to file your income tax return. On Form 1040 or 1040-A, notate your single filing status by checking the box on line 1.


  • Be sure to refer to IRS tax law to make certain that you do not qualify to file as married. For example, you qualify to file either married filing jointly or married filing separately if you are considered married at the end of the tax year. To meet the marriage requirement, you and your spouse must be living together, living in a common law marriage recognized by the state in which you live, married and living apart but not legally separated or divorced, are separated but your divorce is not yet final. If you meet any of the aforementioned tests on the last day of the tax year, then for the purposes of taxation, you are considered married.


  • Only one person is allowed to claim head of household per residence. If you and the person you are living with claim head of household, then one of you will be required by the IRS to amend your filing status. If you do not voluntarily agree to change your filing status, then the IRS will launch an investigation to determine which taxpayer is eligible to claim head of household. You can change your filing status by completing IRS 1040-x and mailing it to your nearest service center.


About the Author

Denise Caldwell is a finance writer who has been writing on taxation and finance since 2006. Her articles appear regularly on websites such as and She has taken what she learned while working at the IRS to provide readers with helpful tax and finance tips. Caldwell received a Bachelor of Arts in political science from Howard University.

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